By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune reporter
11:59 PM EST, January 12, 2013
Trying to figure out this Bulls team is like trying to limit Tom Thibodeau's film breakdown. It's not going to happen.
One night after tying for the league's best road mark with an impressive victory over the Knicks in New York, the Bulls laid another egg at the United Center, falling 97-81 to the Suns.
Back-to-back games can't be an excuse. The Suns were finishing a stretch of four road games in five nights. Phoenix also had lost five straight games overall and 12 straight road games, not winning away from home since Nov. 27 at Cleveland.
For a Bulls team that has defeated the Heat once and the Knicks twice on the road, their 10-10 home mark is inexplicable. Particularly for a team that went 62-12 at the United Center over the last two seasons.
"It can happen once in a great awhile," Thibodeau said of letdowns. "That's part of the game. But it's too much. So I have to figure it out. My job is to have us ready. We have to play with more intensity, more of an edge. We're not doing that. I have to take a hard look at everything."
Thibodeau did rule out lineup changes. The Bulls shot just 36.4 percent and allowed 49.3 percent shooting as Luis Scola led the Suns with 22 points. Michael Beasley came off the bench to score 14 of his 20 points during a nine-minute stint in the second quarter, leading an active bench effort for the Suns.
On the bright side, Jimmy Butler tied a career high with 13 points.
Frustrations boiled over in the second half as Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Nate Robinson and Thibodeau each drew technical fouls.
"No question we lost our composure," Joakim Noah said. "It's not one person, though. It's all of us as a team.
"We complain way too much. When things aren't going our way, we have to find a way to stick together more and not act like it's the end of the world. It's just too negative. We have to support one another, move onto the next play and unite. I don't feel like we're doing that."
Deng battled physical defense from PJ Tucker throughout, missing 11 of 16 shots, and almost drew a second technical.
"People have been thinking I'm a superhero so I have to show them I'm human and I get frustrated too," Deng cracked. "Nah, seriously, I'm disappointed I let my frustration get the best of me. It happens. Some calls go your way. Some don't. I definitely have to keep my composure. I thought I got fouled a few times. The ref didn't see it. I have to do a better job of handling my emotion."
The Suns became the ninth franchise in NBA history to post 2,000 victories.
The Bulls, meanwhile, continued a troubling trend of playing down to their competition. The Bobcats snapped an 18-game losing streak with their New Year's Eve matinee victory at the United Center, and the Bulls also have lost to the Hornets at home.
"We have to fix it ourselves," Boozer said. "We will. I'm confident in our group."